January 15, 2010 in City

High court to decide on petition signatures

By The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA — The U.S. Supreme Court granted a request to review the dispute on whether the names of people who sign a petition to put a law before voters are public, and subject to release.

The high court today granted certiorari to the case Doe v Reed, and set it for a hearing as early as April. An exact date hasn’t been set.

The case involves a fight over the names and addresses of people who signed petitions to put Referendum 71 on last year’s November ballot. The referendum, which sought to overturn expanded rights for same sex and elderly heterosexual coupes, was sponsored by people opposed to gay marriage.

Supporters of gay rights filed a public records request for the names of everyone who signed the petition and referendum backers objected, saying they feared the signers would be harassed.

Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna have said the names of people who sign initiative or referendum petitions are public under the state’s Public Records Act. Federal and state judges have disagreed. Most recently, a divided panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled they are public records, but the release of the names has been put on hold pending the appeal to the nation’s highest court.

Meanwhile, bills being introduced in the current session of the Washington Legislature seek to declare the names definitely are public or are exempt from released under the public records act.


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